It’s been quite some time since we donned Sam Fisher’s iconic infrared goggles. It’s been nearly three years in fact since Splinter Cell: Conviction’s release. In that time we’ve been treated to games like Assassin’s Creed, Metal Gear re-releases, and a bevy of other stealth-driven, combo-heavy, tactical action adventure titles. Suffice it to say that even though Sam Fisher hasn’t been with us since 2010, there’ve been plenty of other protagonists that wanted to play the part.

Well all that’s about to change because Sam is sneaking back into the limelight in Splinter Cell: Blacklist and is bringing a whole new bag of tricks to up the ante.

By now you’ve (hopefully) become well acquainted with the stealth-heavy gameplay that Splinter Cell has come to be known for. This time around, however, Sam introduces a whole new level of hand-to-hand-to-gun combat. 

Rather than simply sneak around each mission and covertly eliminate enemies with silenced weapons (which you can still do, by the way), Blacklist introduces a new “killing in motion” mechanic that turns you into a lethal whirlwind of fists, knives, bullets, and fluid close-quarters combat. Seriously, if you ever wanted to be Jason Bourne, then now’s your chance.

As Sam enters a hostile situation, time slows down and he’s able to carefully coordinate his next move using the “mark and execute” feature. As the action unfolds, Sam fluidly moves from target to target wither eliminating them or taking them as human shields. He can also grab hold of enemies and either interrogate or eliminate them, adding an extra level of moral complexity to the gameplay. 

Most impressive, however, was just how seamless the unfolding action blended into the overall stealth gameplay. During the demo, Sam easily transitioned from sneaking around an enemy camp, to “killing in motion,” to level navigation (scaling a wall), back into hand-to-hand combat, and even finished with a shoot-out that resembled the duck-and-cover gameplay of titles like Gears of War. All the while, it managed to retain the covert operative atmosphere of what we’ve come to expect from Splinter Cell titles.

It remains to be seen just how the new “killing in motion” mechanics will play with the much beloved Spy vs. Mercs multiplayer mode – which is making its long awaited return! – But if the recent demo was anything to go by, this is one Splinter Cell title that shouldn’t sneak past you.

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist will hit Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and PC Spring of 2013.